“What kind of society do you want to live in?”
CBS News asked this question of its readers in a story highlighting Iceland, “the country where Down syndrome is disappearing.” But there’s a catch: Iceland hasn’t made any medical advances with Down syndrome, rather, they have encouraged their populace to simply abort any child that may have Down syndrome.
As the National Review’s Alexandra Desanctis put it, “Iceland isn’t “eliminating Down syndrome” at all. It’s eliminating people.”
Iceland’s laws place it on the leading edge of the modern eugenics movement. The world that CBS News is reporting on is one where society is eliminating an “undesirable” segment of the population through sheer force. Unfortunately, that means that those without a voice to defend themselves are the first to go.
Icelandic law encourages removing those with “serious defects.”
What CBS News learned was that Iceland supports prenatal screening tests. The results are used in genetic counseling sessions where expectant mothers receive advice on whether to carry the baby to term.
Iceland assured CBS News that everything is voluntary, but the numbers paint a different story:
Geneticist Kari Stefansson is the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that has studied nearly the entire Icelandic population’s genomes. He has a unique perspective on the advancement of medical technology. “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society — that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” he said.
Quijano asked Stefansson, “What does the 100 percent termination rate, you think, reflect about Icelandic society?”
“It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling,” he said. “And I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. … You’re having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way.”
Down syndrome falls under a government statute that allows abortions if the child is expected to have a serious birth impairment. What is seen in Iceland is a heavy-handed government effort to persuade women to abort their child if it shows markers of Down syndrome.
The test Iceland uses is only 85 percent accurate, which means that the genetic counseling is encouraging abortion in the case of false positive tests. Iceland is choosing to abort healthy children in order to eliminate the possibility of the birth of any children with Down syndrome — in short, it’s eugenics repackaged.
Iceland is not the first country to attempt eugenics
This isn’t the first time abortion and other methods were used to target “unwanted” segments of the population. The first major push was during the Progressive Era in the late 19th and early 20th century when progressives of the era wanted to limit the reproduction of the unwanted.
According to Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger:
I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the “unfit” and the “fit,” admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes.
In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit though less fertile parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.
The “inferior classes” were often a dog-whistle for the scientific racist segment of the eugenics movement, led by people like Charles Davenport. Eugenicists may have discussed concern for poor minorities, but their interest was only skin deep.
The dark side of allowing humanity the power of eugenics
The low point in America’s eugenics experiment was when the Supreme Court enshrined eugenics into law in 1927. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes infamously declared “three generations of imbeciles is enough,” and allowed state governments to sterilize “inferior classes” forcibly.
Only two decades later, in the aftermath of World War II, the Nazis used Holmes’ logic in Buck v. Bell to defend their actions. In fact, some historians have hypothesized that the Progressive Era eugenics movement inspired the “scientific basis” of Hitler’s quest for the perfect human.
Protecting life — especially for those who can’t defend themselves — is a moral imperative
The situation in Iceland reveals that we are beginning to see the return of the eugenics movement.
A report previously published by the Conservative Institute about new genetic modification technology that could lead to “designer” babies explains the problems resultant from trusting humans with that power. Eugenics is, in large part, the basis for those concerns.
To produce a “better country,” Iceland is systematically wiping out people they deem inferior. They’ve so devalued life that if someone has Down syndrome, they are considered worthless to society.
Remember, at this point, this isn’t a pro-choice issue anymore.
The choice has already been made to have a child; now the state is encouraging abortions to rid society of an undesirable type of child. Thus, the choice isn’t over whether to have a child, it’s whether to have a child with a potential “defect.”
A basic problem with that eugenicist mindset is that our definition of who is “defective” shifts with each age. Devaluing the lives of those with Down syndrome destroys their dignity and is a direct threat to the dignity of all human life.
Protecting all life starts with establishing and protecting the right of all life to exist, free of prejudice and judgment of who gets valued in this world.
We want to live in a society that values and respects all life, not a society that rids itself of those it deems inferior.